In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the surface of the Moon.Nearly 50 years later, President Donald Trump wants to send U.S. astronauts back to Earth’s satellite.“The directive I’m signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” he said from the White House Roosevelt Room. “It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use.”The policy—which aims to unite government, private industry, and international efforts—grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.It also ends an existing effort, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, to send humans to an asteroid (you know—somewhere new and interesting).The Marius Hills Skylight, as observed by JAXA orbiter SELENE, on Earth’s moon (via NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” Pence said in a statement.The United States remains the only country to have successfully conducted manned missions to the moon, the last departing the lunar surface in December 1972.In the years since, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has landed rovers on Mars, studied Saturn and its moons, collected data on Pluto, discovered thousands of possible exoplanets, and allowed astronauts to conduct experiments in low-Earth orbit.So, I’d say America’s doing pretty well in terms of celestial navigation.“This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “[E]ven now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space.”Trump accepts a toy spaceman from Jack Schmitt, who landed on the moon 45 years ago as part of the Apollo 17 mission (via The White House/YouTube)A crowd of old, white, male onlookers were joined this week by decorated cosmonaut Peggy Whitson (who holds a number of records, including most total days spent in space by any NASA astronaut) and Christina Koch (a member of the NASA class of 2013).Also on hand were Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission 45 years ago to the minute the policy directive was signed, and Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon.But shouldn’t we, as Schmitt suggested to Trump, “learn from the moon”? Shouldn’t we review our past achievements, and then aim further?Lightfoot thinks so: “The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path,” he said.The Daedalus prepares to land on Mars (via National Geographic)Fifty-five years ago, a young, hopeful President John F. Kennedy stood in front of a crowd in Houston, urging them to endorse a national effort to land a man on the moon—”because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”At the time, the world still clung to a romantic notion of space—one that has since been confirmed, expanded, and made even more exciting by international efforts to reach beyond the stars.Which is why rocketing to the moon feels like a step backward, especially in the era of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the possibility of human colonization of Mars.NASA completed six manned lunar landings between 1969 and 1972; Trump’s plan returns American astronauts to the moon for the first time in 45 years.“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” he said. “We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. And perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond.” Stay on target NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendScientists Discover Possible Interstellar Visitor Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.